Bible Verse Explanations and Resources


Isaiah 9:1

Adam Clarke
Bible Commentary

Dimness "Accumulated darkness" - Either מנדחה menuddechah, fem. to agree with אפלה aphelah ; or המנדח אפל aphel hammenuddach, alluding perhaps to the palpable Egyptian darkness, Exodus 10:21.

The land of Zebulun - Zebulun, Naphtali, Manasseh, that is, the country of Galilee all round the sea of Gennesareth, were the parts that principally suffered in the first Assyrian invasion under Tiglath-pileser; see 2 Kings 15:29; 1 Chronicles 5:26. And they were the first that enjoyed the blessings of Christ's preaching the Gospel, and exhibiting his miraculous works among them. See Mede's Works, p. 101, and 457. This, which makes the twenty-third verse of chap. 8 in the Hebrew, is the first verse in chap. 9 in our authorized version. Bishop Lowth follows the division in the Hebrew.

Albert Barnes
Notes on the Whole Bible

Nevertheless - Notwithstanding what is said in the previous chapter of the calamities that are coming upon Israel. Hengstenberg renders this whole verse: ‹For darkness shall not be upon the land upon which there is distress; as the former time has dishonored the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali; so shall the time come to honor it, the region on the border of the sea, by the side of the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles.‘

The dimness - The Hebrew word hero denotes obscurity, or darkness; and is used here, as the word darkness often is in the Scriptures, to denote calamity or affliction. The dimness, or calamity, here referred to, is that which is threatened, Isaiah 8:21-22.

Shall not be such - It shall not be unbroken darkness, and unalleviated calamity; but it shall be interrupted by the rising of the great light that shall shine on the dark land of Zebulun and Naphtali.

In her vexation - The word ‹her‘ refers to the whole land of Palestine, to the afflictions that came upon the whole region. The word vexation, מוצק mûtsâq means oppression, calamity, or being “straitened, or pressed.”

When at the first - In the former time; on a former occasion.

He lightly afflicted - The word used here, קלל qâlal means properly, to be, or make light, or small; and in Hiphil, the form which occurs here, it often means to “esteem lightly, to despise, to hold in contempt;” 2 Samuel 19:43; Ezekiel 22:7. It probably has that sense here, as the design of the prophet is evidently to speak, not of a light affliction in the former time, but of a grievous, heavy calamity - a calamity which would be well denoted by the expression, ‹he made them vile; he exposed them to contempt and derision.‘ The time to which reference is made here, was probably the invasion of the land by Tiglath-pileser; 2 Kings 15:29; 1 Chronicles 5:26. In that invasion, the parts of Zebulun and Naphtali were particularly afflicted. ‹Tiglath-pileser took Ijon, and Gilead, and Galilee, and all the land of Naphtali, and carried them captive to Assyria;‘ 2 Kings 15:29. This region had also been invaded by Benhadad two hundred years before the time of Isaiah; 1 Kings 15:20, and there might have been a reference to these various invasions to which this northern part of the land of Palestine had been subjected.

The land of Zebulun - The region occupied by the tribe of Zebulun. This tribe was located between the sea of Tiberias, or the lake Gennesareth, and the Mediterranean. It extended entirely across from the one to the other, and as it was thus favored with a somewhat extended seacoast, the people were more given to commerce than the other tribes, and hence, mingled more with surrounding nations.

And the land of Naphtali - The region which was occupied by this tribe was directly north of Zebulun, and of the sea of Galilee, having that sea and the tribe of Zebulun on the south and southeast, Asher on the west, and a part of the tribe of Manasseh, on the east.

And afterward - That is, in subsequent times; meaning times that were to come after the prophecy here delivered. The previous part of the verse refers to the calamities that had come upon that region in former times. The expression here refers to what was seen by the prophet as yet to occur.

Did more grievously afflict - הכביד hı̂kebbı̂yd This verb has very various significations. It properly means “to be heavy, to be grievous, to lie or fall heavy on anyone, to be dull, obstinate; also, to be honored, respected;” that is, of weight, or influence in society. It means, in Hiphil, the form which is used here, “to make heavy, or grievous;” 1 Kings 12:10; Isaiah 47:6; “to oppress,” Nehemiah 5:15; and it also means to “cause to be honored, or distinguished, to favor. - Gesenius.” The connection requires that it should have this sense here, and the passage means, that the land which he had made vile in former times, or had suffered to be despised, he had purposed to honor, or to render illustrious by the great light that should rise on it. So Lowth, Rosenmuller, and Gesenius, translate it; see a similar use of the word in Jeremiah 30:19; 2 Chronicles 25:19; 1 Samuel 2:30.

By the way of the sea - The sea of Galilee, or Gennesareth. All this region was in the vicinity of that sea. The word “way” here, דרך derek means toward, or in the vicinity of. The extensive dark region lying in the vicinity of that sea, Both those tribes bordered on the sea of Tiberias, or had that as a part of their boundary.

Beyond Jordan - This expression - הירדן עבר ‛ēber hayareddēn - means in the vicinity of Jordan; the land by the side of the Jordan, or perhaps that large region through which the upper part of the Jordan passed. It does not mean strictly on the east of Jordan, but rather the northern portion of the land. It is such language as a man would use who was describing the upper and imperfectly known regions of the country - the dark, uncivilized region through which the upper part of the Jordan flowed, and the word עבר ‛ēber rendered here “beyond,” means “side” - by the side of the Jordan.

Galilee of the nations - This was sometimes called upper Galilee. It was called ‹Galilee of the nations,‘ or of the Gentiles, because it was surrounded by them, and because the pagan were extensively intermingled with the Jews. In this region, Solomon had given to Hiram, king of Tyre, twenty cities; 1 Kings 9:2. Adjacent to this region were the countries of Phenicia, Tyre, and Sidon; and the people would naturally mingle much with them in commerce. The country abounded with hills and caverns, and, consequently, it was never possible completely to dislodge from the fastnesses the former inhabitants of the land. Strabo enumerates among the inhabitants of Galilee, Arabians and Phenicians. The inhabitants of this country are represented as having been bold and courageous, but as seditious, and prone to insolence and rebellion. If it be asked here, in what way this land had been made contemptible, or why it was regarded as an object of contempt? we may reply,

(1) The district in which these two tribes dwelt constituted the border-land toward the pagan nations.

(2) The Galileans not only dwelt in the vicinity of the pagan, but a large number of them had actually remained in the country, and it had been found impossible to expel them from it; Judges 1:30-35.

(3) The Phenicians, with whom they held commercial contact, and with whom they dwelt intermingled, were among the most corrupt of the pagan nations. To this may be added,

(4) They were far from Jerusalem, and, consequently, the influence of religion may be supposed to have been less felt among them than among the other Jews. The true religion was, in a great measure, lost upon them, and ignorance and superstition took its place. Hence, in the New Testament, they are spoken of as almost proverbially rude and ignorant.

Matthew Henry
Concise Bible Commentary
The Syrians and Assyrians first ravaged the countries here mentioned, and that region was first favoured by the preaching of Christ. Those that want the gospel, walk in darkness, and in the utmost danger. But when the gospel comes to any place, to any soul, light comes. Let us earnestly pray that it may shine into our hearts, and make us wise unto salvation. The gospel brings joy with it. Those who would have joy, must expect to go through hard work, as the husbandman, before he has the joy of harvest; and hard conflict, as the soldier, before he divides the spoil. The Jews were delivered from the yoke of many oppressors; this was a shadow of the believer's deliverance from the yoke of Satan. The cleansing the souls of believers from the power and pollution of sin, would be by the influence of the Holy Spirit, as purifying fire. These great things for the church, shall be done by the Messiah, Emmanuel. The Child is born; it was certain; and the church, before Christ came in the flesh, benefitted by his undertaking. It is a prophecy of him and of his kingdom, which those that waited for the Consolation of Israel read with pleasure. This Child was born for the benefit of us men, of us sinners, of all believers, from the beginning to the end of the world. Justly is he called Wonderful, for he is both God and man. His love is the wonder of angels and glorified saints. He is the Counsellor, for he knew the counsels of God from eternity; and he gives counsel to men, in which he consults our welfare. He is the Wonderful Counsellor; none teaches like him. He is God, the mighty One. Such is the work of the Mediator, that no less power than that of the mighty God could bring it to pass. He is God, one with the Father. As the Prince of Peace, he reconciles us to God; he is the Giver of peace in the heart and conscience; and when his kingdom is fully established, men shall learn war no more. The government shall be upon him; he shall bear the burden of it. Glorious things are spoken of Christ's government. There is no end to the increase of its peace, for the happiness of its subjects shall last for ever. The exact agreement of this prophecy with the doctrine of the New Testament, shows that Jewish prophets and Christian teachers had the same view of the person and salvation of the Messiah. To what earthly king or kingdom can these words apply? Give then, O Lord, to thy people to know thee by every endearing name, and in every glorious character. Give increase of grace in every heart of thy redeemed upon earth.
Ellen G. White
The Desire of Ages, 277

The Prince of heaven was among His people. The greatest gift of God had been given to the world. Joy to the poor; for Christ had come to make them heirs of His kingdom. Joy to the rich; for He would teach them how to secure eternal riches. Joy to the ignorant; He would make them wise unto salvation. Joy to the learned; He would open to them deeper mysteries than they had ever fathomed; truths that had been hidden from the foundation of the world would be opened to men by the Saviour's mission. DA 277.1

John the Baptist had rejoiced to behold the Saviour. What occasion for rejoicing had the disciples who were privileged to walk and talk with the Majesty of heaven! This was not a time for them to mourn and fast. They must open their hearts to receive the light of His glory, that they might shed light upon those who sat in darkness and in the shadow of death. DA 277.2

It was a bright picture which the words of Christ had called up, but across it lay a heavy shadow, which His eye alone discerned. “The days will come,” He said, “when the bridegroom shall be taken away from them, and then shall they fast in those days.” When they should see their Lord betrayed and crucified, the disciples would mourn and fast. In His last words to them in the upper chamber, He said, “A little while, and ye shall not see Me: and again, a little while, and ye shall see Me. Verily, verily, I say unto you, That ye shall weep and lament, but the world shall rejoice: and ye shall be sorrowful, but your sorrow shall be turned into joy.” John 16:19, 20. DA 277.3

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Ellen G. White
Prophets and Kings, 373

The prophet was permitted to look down the centuries to the time of the advent of the promised Messiah. At first he beheld only “trouble and darkness, dimness of anguish.” Isaiah 8:22. Many who were longing for the light of truth were being led astray by false teachers into the bewildering mazes of philosophy and spiritism; others were placing their trust in a form of godliness, but were not bringing true holiness into the life practice. The outlook seemed hopeless; but soon the scene changed, and before the eyes of the prophet was spread a wondrous vision. He saw the Sun of Righteousness arise with healing in His wings; and, lost in admiration, he exclaimed: “The dimness shall not be such as was in her vexation, when at the first He lightly afflicted the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, and afterward did more grievously afflict her by the way of the sea, beyond Jordan, in Galilee of the nations. The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined.” Isaiah 9:1, 2. PK 373.1

This glorious Light of the world was to bring salvation to every nation, kindred, tongue, and people. Of the work before Him, the prophet heard the eternal Father declare: “It is a light thing that Thou shouldest be My servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the preserved of Israel: I will also give Thee for a light to the Gentiles, that Thou mayest be My salvation unto the end of the earth.” “In an acceptable time have I heard Thee, and in a day of salvation have I helped Thee: and I will preserve Thee, and give Thee for a covenant of the people, to establish the earth, to cause to inherit the desolate heritages; that Thou mayest say to the prisoners, Go forth; to them that are in darkness, Show yourselves.” “Behold, these shall come from far: and, lo, these from the north and from the west; and these from the land of Sinim.” Isaiah 49:6, 8, 9, 12. PK 373.2

Looking on still farther through the ages, the prophet beheld the literal fulfillment of these glorious promises. He saw the bearers of the glad tidings of salvation going to the ends of the earth, to every kindred and people. He heard the Lord saying of the gospel church, “Behold, I will extend peace to her like a river, and the glory of the Gentiles like a flowing stream;” and he heard the commission, “Enlarge the place of thy tent, and let them stretch forth the curtains of thine habitations: spare not, lengthen thy cords, and strengthen thy stakes; for thou shalt break forth on the right hand and on the left; and thy seed shall inherit the Gentiles.” Isaiah 66:12; 54:2, 3. PK 374.1

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